I knew something was wrong when I woke up on April 7th, 1999. My mom was cooking eggs. She never cooked eggs on a school morning. I dragged myself out of bed to see what terrible thing had happened. "Nothing's wrong; I just feel like cooking," was the lie I was told.
I got on the bus just in time to realize that Melissa wasn't there. Melissa was always there. She and I had been best friends for as long as I could remember. We even had matching bracelets that said, "Kayla and Melissa -- friends forever."
When I got to school and found out that Melissa still wasn't there, I faked sick so I could go home and call her. When I called, I was surprised at how weak her voice sounded. Toward the end of the conversation, she went into a series of coughing fits and hung up the phone. Later that night I got the call that changed my life forever. Melissa had terminal cancer and was given a year to live. I thought it was a joke. No one is given time to live; they just live, but this was no joke.
Melissa started chemotherapy and soon lost her hair. Lots of kids made fun of her, but I stuck by her. Melissa's cancer worsened. The doctors said she could go anytime. All of this was so hard for me to understand. She was then given one wish. Her wish was to go to the park with me. The doctors wouldn't let us go alone, so her mother agreed to stay in her car down the street.
On April 3rd, 2000, we set off for the park, not running, skipping or joking like we normally did because Melissa could barely walk. We went on the swings first and I gently pushed her. After a few minutes, she laid her head down like she was sleeping. I slowed down the swing bracing myself to have to carry her twig-like figure home.
Then came a small voice barely above a whisper, "Kayla?" she said with great difficulty.
"You walked in when the rest of the world walked out..." She went into another series of coughing fits, but she managed to get these words out, "You're my best friend and I love you."
"I know, I know," I said as I hugged her. As abruptly as the coughing started, it ended. Her breathing slowed until it faded, and she was gone.
I attended the funeral against my will. I still couldn't believe that she was dead. That word, dead, was so final, so permanent. I was overwhelmed by the kind of pain that never goes away. I was sure it would hurt forever.
As I said goodbye to my dear friend for the final time, I repeated those words she had said to me, "I love you." As I said those words, I knew that she felt the same way up in heaven. She would be looking down on me somehow knowing that would help me go on. Melissa would have wanted me to do that for both of us.
Now I realize that a real friend walks in when the rest of the world walks out.
-- Megan Fasick, 13, Gibsonia, Pennsylvania.